Prof Simon Easteal

House and Years at Fettes:
Glencourse 1966-71

Qualifications and career:
BSc (Hons), MBA, PhD
Professor and Deputy Director, John Curtin School of Medical Research, The Australian National University.

I have worked for most of my career as a biological and medical researcher. The main focus of my research has been the evolution of human diversity and its impact on health. I have held positions at Universities in Australia, the United States and Fiji. I also worked for a short period as a consultant in the biotechnology industry.

What is your most cherished memory from your time at Fettes?
Captaining the house rugby team to victory against all odds in the inter-house competition. This was a transformative experience that has stayed with me because through it I understood what can be achieved by a group of people of modest ability when they have a sense of shared purpose developed through mutual trust. It was exhilarating.

And your least?
For most of my time at Fettes I was either at the bottom or near the bottom of the class in almost all subjects. Despite a deep passion for knowledge and understanding I was unable to perform well in the ways that were expected by my teachers. This was a constant source of confusion and frustration.

What event or personality left a lasting impression on you?
Event: A Commemoration Address by the advertising guru David Ogilvy. It was a revelation to hear this brilliant and hugely successful man talk of his own struggles in the class room while at Fettes and to hear him make radical propositions for educational reform in open defiance of the School’s conventions and of the conventionality of the occasion.

My House Master, George Buchanan-Smith because I felt that he understood me. I only got through because he believed in my ability, despite all the evidence to the contrary.

Were you a conscientious student?
I was a very poor student and I have found that many of the people who I most admire also did poorly at school.

Outside the classroom, how did you spend your free time at Fettes?
I don’t recall much free time. I was in the sailing and shooting teams and captained the rugby team but time spent on these recreational activities was highly structured. I read a great deal.